Thursday, September 14, 2006

The siren song of Oktoberfest

Although Munich is fairly close to Bern (where I live), I've never been to the famous Oktoberfest. Maybe this year I'll skip up for a day or two of boozing and pigging out. I'll be able to cross one more thing off my to-do list.

It starts this Saturday:
The Oktoberfest, which starts on Saturday Sept. 16 and runs until Oct. 3, is the biggest folk festival in the world. It had 6.1 million visitors last year, including hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists. They drank 6.1 million liters of beer brewed specially for the occasion by the city's six breweries.

The food consumption statistics are similarly gargantuan -- visitors wolfed down 95 oxen, 55,913 knuckles of pork, 479,610 fried chickens and 179,557 pairs of sausages last year.

The Oktoberfest is Bavaria at its most Bavarian. The new visitor may be taken aback by the sight of steaming tents packed with 10,000 people, many standing on the tables, the women in low-cut "Dirndl" dresses and the men stamping their Lederhosen-clad legs to the trumpet sounds of an Oompah band as they hold up their glasses in never-ending toasts.

Powerful waitresses, some of them capable of carrying eight full beer glasses, blow whistles or shout "Vorsicht!" ("Look Out!") as they barge their way through the crowds. Collisions are rare but messy, especially if they're bearing giant trays laden with pork knuckles and chicken. Brezels the size of steering wheels are also on offer. [....]